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OpinionCommentary

'Time off to vote' is smart business

Corporate America should back NY's efforts to make casting ballots easier.

Voters cast their ballots at the Eatons Neck

Voters cast their ballots at the Eatons Neck Fire Department on Nov. 6, 2018. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

  

Employees across New York can breathe a sigh of relief.

State legislators have amended state election laws to provide workers with an additional hour of paid time off to vote on Election Days. Employees may now take up to three hours of time off to participate in their most important civic duty, regardless of work schedule.

Employers must now build on that momentum and embrace “time off to vote” on their own. As the college spring semester draws to a close, companies in all industries are courting America’s best and brightest to join their ranks.

Corporate America knows a lot about its prospective employees — from personality traits to test scores and internship experience. However, many companies ignore just how politically informed young adults have become. In 2018, historically low youth turnout hit record highs, and youth activism remains high.

That engagement affects how young adults perceive corporate brands. According to a 2018 survey, 77 percent of Americans ages 18 to 44 are “more likely to work for a company that promotes democracy,” and 82 percent are “more likely to buy that company’s products or services.”

Young Americans want more out of their employers than growth opportunities and a 401(k) plan. They want companies to give back to society, do right by their workers and promote participation in our democracy. Whether it’s a full day off or just a few hours at a time, companies should ease the path for workers to vote.

Rather than wait for government action, many employers are taking it upon themselves to help boost voter turnout. Hundreds of companies — big and small — have joined the “Take Off Election Day” movement. Last year, the restaurant chain Cava offered its 1,600 workers two hours of paid leave on Election Day to vote. Chrysler, Lyft, Patagonia, Spotify, Walmart and others have joined in.

For employers, offering the time off also makes sense from a business perspective. When a company offers flexible schedules on Election Day, that company becomes a more attractive place to work by aligning its values with those of the millennial generation.

Given that millennials comprise the largest segment of the U.S. labor force since 2016 — and Gen Zers are soon to enter the workforce — keeping up with the changing times means staying in business. Smart CEOs know that young Americans are not only future employees, but also future shareholders. Their values — and purchasing power — will exert an outsized influence on markets and corporate policy.

Investors are allocating their capital accordingly. Traditionally, the only measure of a company’s success was its bottom line. Today, environmental, social and governance ratings, also known as ESG ratings, are watched by investors who care about social welfare. In 2018, $1 out of every $4 of America’s professionally managed assets was invested under ESG strategies. Nearly 80 percent of high net-worth millennial investors review their assets for ESG scoring.

Time off to vote is not a staple of ESG ratings, but it should be. ESG-score providers, such as Bloomberg and Dow Jones, must step in. Time off to vote needs to be taken into account, rewarding companies that promote the policy — and nudging those that do not.

Allowing time off to vote is good business and better for society — in New York and nationwide.

  Campbell Streator is program director of Every Vote Counts, a student-led, nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout and expanding voter access. Thomas Rosenkranz is the founder of Yale University’s EVC chapter.

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